No Barriers, No Defeat – With God!

Barrier

Barrier (Photo credit: Plbmak)

Several years ago, our company held a business retreat that, as they normally do, featured a motivational speaker. He had worked his way into the Olympics in one of the solo sailing events. It was a good story, as he came from a disadvantaged country and family. And, it was motivational.

The slogan used for the retreat (and the title of the book describing his accomplishment) was something like “No Barriers, No Defeat!”

The various sessions had that as the theme, and the speakers adapted it to their subject. The organizers did an excellent job of weaving those words throughout all the sessions and events. When the gathering ended at lunchtime on the third day, the excitement was evident. We left as a group thinking: “we can do it – no barriers, no defeat!”, and as individuals applying it to ourselves: “I can do it – no barriers, no defeat!”.

But, as usual, in the aftermath of such a retreat, getting back into the day-to-day work can bring down the excitement level. The same problems exist, the routine is still routine, and there are still barriers and defeats – no matter what words you say.

Much like those described as in the “rocky ground” in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, there was a group who heard the words and got excited, but quickly lost motivation when the troubles arose once more.

Jesus explained that the seed being sown was the Word of God and in the rocky ground, it didn’t take root (the Holy Spirit had not prepared their heart to be “good ground”). The “rocky ground” folks were acting on their own emotions and strength.

And, that’s where most of us were as we stated: “No barriers, no defeat”. We thought if we just tried hard enough, focused clearly enough, and were strong enough, we would win all the battles. But, we know that’s not true.

The poem “Invictus” has a line: “I am the master of my fate”. I once thought that a powerful statement, but now understand it’s nothing but silliness and arrogance.

I’m not implying that we shouldn’t work against barriers to do what needs to be done. Neither am I implying we should give up if things are hard to do. No, I’m saying we have to change our focus.

We have to turn from any “man-centered” thinking (such as the Invictus line) and turn to God. Not saying what we will do (on our own), but acknowledging, as instructed in James 4:13-17, that if the Lord wills, we will do this or that. Recognizing, as Jesus says (John 15:5), we can do nothing apart from Him.

And, with those passages and this Scripture, we can fearlessly (yet humbly) go against whatever barriers may exist: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 NKJV.

Through the years I’ve modified the slogan we used that week. The first variation, instead of “No Barriers, No Defeat” became “No Arrogance, No Conceit”. But, on consideration, I think it may be more appropriate to say “No Barriers, No Defeat – with God!”

Connecting Our Words and Thoughts in Prayers

To-do list reminders on the back door

I use computer calendars (personal and work) to keep up with my schedule and to-do lists. However, Sharon and I have found another effective way to get specific reminders. As shown in the picture above, it’s the use of sticky notes on the back door glass.

Since tomorrow is garbage pickup, Sharon has put up the note that says “trash day”. In the morning, after I start the coffee and then head outside to feed the kittens, I should read it. If not, at some point during the morning, one of us will notice it and I’ll pull the container to the road. After that’s done, I can remove the note and put it on the counter to use again next week (may as well be frugal until the sticky wears off that one).

In case you wondered – “wasp nests” means I need to take the wasp spray out at some point because they have started several nests around the outside of the house. “Tablecloth” is a reminder to return our company’s trade show exhibit tablecloth back to the main office.

That location for the notes is effective because we both go out the door for various reasons several times a day. But, because it’s a well traveled route, it can also become routine. We can get to the point that we don’t notice the notes and what they say. We go on about our business and ignore the reminders. So, even with something right in front of our eyes, there still has to be an effort to pay attention.

That can apply in a Christian’s prayer life too. Even the wonderful example that Jesus gave His disciples of how to pray (usually referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”) can become routine. We can repeat it by rote enough that we don’t have to think about the words. I’ve caught myself at times repeating that prayer, or saying a different prayer, while thinking about something totally different – like, “what’s for lunch?” or “it’s time for another cup of coffee”.

It’s my belief that what we’re thinking about while praying is more important than the words we’re using. As I said, there isn’t always a connection between the words and the thoughts, but there certainly needs to be. Our thoughts and words should be focused on and to God the Father, guided by the Holy Spirit, and prayed in Jesus’ name. That takes our effort to pay attention.

Sometimes Sharon and I will be talking about our back door to-do list and realize we’ve stopped paying attention – one of us will say, “I don’t remember, let me check the door” and we’ll get re-focused.

At times, we need to follow that in our prayers – Stop and take a moment to re-focus on what our objective really is.

After this manner pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom com, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Matt 6:9-13 KJV

Windspinners and the Holy Spirit

Windspinner 2

Windspinner 1

My wife, Sharon, gave me a windspinner for Christmas. Rather than calling it “the big one on the back of the blueberry netting frame”, I’ll refer to it as Windspinner 2 (WS2), and the original one on the front will be Windspinner 1 (WS1).

Windspinner 2 looks like a piece of art with its wide, curved vanes. Windspinner 1 has long, straight vanes, and reacts much like a propeller. With that shape, WS 1 only needs a slight breeze to set it in motion. A brisk wind spins it into a blur and you can’t distinguish the individual vanes (As info, the wheels are set to turn in opposite directions.)

WS 2 barely reacts to a light breeze. One wheel may rock back and forth, as if it’s considering spinning but unwilling to commit. It takes a strong, consistent wind to overcome the inertia and then keep it in motion. It doesn’t spin to a blur like WS1, and because of that, the curved vanes crisscrossing each other make a pulsating pattern that looks almost alive.

In John 3:8, Jesus likens the work of the Holy Spirit to the wind. We can perceive the effects of the wind but don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. These two gadgets reveal the effects of the wind differently – much as individual people reveal the effects of the Holy Spirit differently. Some react quickly, while others need a push and then slowly pick up speed.

That’s not meant to imply the Holy Spirit has to try different methods on a person until He finds one that is successful. The Holy Spirit is God, and when He has changed someone’s heart, He has perfect wisdom to know exactly how to turn, guide and help that person become what God wants them to be.

Perhaps someday I’ll post videos of the windspinners so you can see them in action. Until then, observe the various effects of the wind on the world around you. And, more than that, marvel as you see the Holy Spirit working in different individual’s lives, and praise God for the continuing miracle of saved souls.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 ESV

The Grand Quest – “Be Holy”, for Our God is Holy

     When our son, Daniel, was a youngster, we spent hours playing the Super Mario Brothers videogame. The game is a quest to rescue Princess Peach Toadstool from the evil villain, Bowser. The players run, jump, and bounce their way through different levels until they meet Bowser face to face on a bridge over a lake of lava. If they defeat him there, they can enter the dungeon and free the princess.

     Daniel was more successful than I was in this game (and all the others we played too). Nevertheless, after much failure and many “GAME OVER” endings, I eventually sent Bowser into oblivion and triumphantly entered the dungeon. My quest was complete and the princess was free, but the results were short-lived. When I reset the game, she went back into captivity.

     Along with that minor quest of freeing the princess, God has blessed me to complete some more significant ones. I graduated and found a good job, and I married the love of my life (thankfully, that was a jointly pursued quest!)

     However, there are many more that seem never-ending, and, at times, don’t have a clear objective. I am searching for what it means, and striving to be, a good: husband, father, grandfather, church-member, and brother to others in my life. While “good” is the part that is not always well defined in my mind, I do know where I should be headed. These quests all relate to learning and obeying God’s Word, and can be summed up in the Grand Quest that the Lord has given us:

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV

     Now that’s a quest to stand in awe of! We’re supposed to be holy: set apart, different from the world around us, pure. Regretfully, there are quite a few times during my days when that’s not the case – either in word, thought, or action (or the lack thereof).

     The Bible teaches that we won’t reach that perfection in these mortal bodies. But, while it is a daunting task, it’s not impossible to get closer to it every day. It’s possible to make progress because we are not alone in the quest – God has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” 1 John 4:4 NKJV

     When we consider our weaknesses, we may believe this quest is never-ending. However, we can be assured it will be completed – not through our own strength, but because Jesus paid the price for our sins. In Heaven, we will be presented “faultless (holy) before the presence of His glory, with exceeding joy” Jude 1:24 NKJV.

     Finally, we know it won’t be temporary. There is no reset button that sends us back into captivity. We will eternally be with God, and more fully understand that it was not our quest at all – it was the Lord carrying us along in His quest to bring all His children home.

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This post is part of the Christian Writers blog chain. Our theme for this month is “Quest”. Please see the list to the right and visit my friends’ blogs to see what they have to say about this topic.